For more than a hundred years teenage girls have been married off to polygamist men in the United States, often old enough to be their fathers.

But Lu Ann Kingston rejected her lot as a polygamist wife and walked out. Now she is sharing her history in an effort to promote legislation and make such practices a serious felony, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Kingston who became a fourth wife at the age of 15 says, “Polygamists know there is a penalty, but it’s not that great.”

Under the proposed legislation marrying a second wife who is a minor will become a second-degree felony, with a possible 15-year prison term.

The legislation cleared the Utah House Judiciary Committee this week and seems likely to become law.

Such legislation is long overdue in Utah, which contains large groups of polygamists.

There are about 50,000 polygamists living in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The largest concentration of adherents is in Arizona and Utah.

But what about the leaders who make these girls marry?

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff claims, “We’re not bluffing. We’re not just going after the husband, but also the prophets or leaders — whoever is commanding these young girls to get married.”

And after decades of ignoring polygamist abuses Utah has taken some action in recent years, but only after much media coverage and corresponding outrage.

In 1999, David Ortell Kingston was convicted of two felony counts for having sex with his niece. Kingston is a key leader of one of Utah’s largest polygamist groups. He was sentenced to prison, but will be released soon in June.

David Kingston’s brother was also sentenced to 7 months in jail for beating up his daughter when she refused an arranged marriage with her uncle.

Lu Anne Kingston, once a member of the same notorious sect, says that at 15 she was forced into marriage and had two babies by the age of 20.

She said, “It’s not easy to leave. There’s such a great fear of leaving [the girls] are told that [plural marriage] is the way to heaven.” And failure to submit to such practices potentially places that person in “outer darkness” for eternity.

Because of such unreasonable fears, which are indoctrinated from earliest childhood, few polygamists seriously question their lot in life and/or rebel against group authority.

Polygamist sects are most often ruled over by authoritarian “prophets” who essentially speak for “God.” They are absolute authoritarian leaders not unlike those that head purported “cults.”

Though the modern Mormon Church reflects an evolution of devolving power and greater accountability, these polygamist “prophets” remain much like the early Mormon leaders of the 19th Century, such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

Both men were polygamists and their word was law amongst Mormons.

Perhaps Mormon history has made it difficult for Utah to face the dilemma of polygamy today?


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